Anyone considering a career as a patent attorney?

  • #226
berned_you
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I am curious about the correlation between the pay and the hours worked. My current stereotypical view of lawyers is one who works 60 hours a week, makes 300k a year and has no time to do other things like coach his kid's soccer team. However, you have said that you are a rare case in that you work 35 hrs/week, but how does that affect your pay? I guess my curiosity is whether or not I could, with a ChemE undergrad and a diploma from a sweet law school, make bank (150k to 200k) while working 40-45 hour weeks?

Keep in mind that this post originated a long time ago. I'm now in a different employment situation so I have a bit more perspective and input. Currently I work at a firm that allows me to work as much or as little as I want (granted I don't think I could work 80 hours a week because there probably isn't enough to do). My pay is therefore variable and is directly tied to the number of hours that are billed to a client. It's a nice flexible arrangement for someone with a family but the unpredictability is not so good as my next paycheck is always a mystery. Back to your question, I don't think you could expect to make $150-200K working 40-45 hours a week, especially if you're a junior attorney. "Working" 40-45 hours a week is "billing" about 1200/hours a year (keep in mind attorneys don't get paid sick time, client development, continuing education, vacation, holidays or bathroom breaks as it all comes down to hours billed per year). To do rough math, let's say your starting billing rate is $175/hr and you get 1/3, that means your take home would be around $69K if you worked a 40-45 hour week. Some firms will give you a higher cut, many will require you bill at least 1500 hours. Your billing rate can be much higher but most clients will give you a budget and if you can't meet the budget, you're working for free so it all evens out in the long run. Billing rates are pretty meaningless for IP work these days IMO because most work is done on a pre-negotiated fee basis. It's not that you can't make great money practicing patent law, but it's not as "kick your feet up on the desk" as many believe. It's also a lot easier to make good money 5+ years in the business because you know what you're doing and are more efficient. It's also easier to make money as well when you're working for your own clients and only have to get their feedback vs. also the feedback of a senior partner (i.e. more work available for you bill/collect).
 
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  • #227
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Thank you so much for continuing to respond. I would just like to tell you a little about myself and the plan I've been conjuring up.

I received my BS in physics with a concentration in nuclear engineering in 2013. While in undergrad, I did a lot of research in the field of nuclear forensics and even published a paper. When I graduated, no one was hiring in that field and oil was at $100+/barrel so I switched gears and started working as a geophysicist for a top-tier company. That was two years ago, and I cannot express to you how much I HATE this job. I'd much rather be getting a root canal or suffer a minor car accident than go to work. It's sucking the life out of me, and at age 24 I know I need to make a change sooner rather than later.

So here's my plan - I study for a few months and pass the patent bar, then land a patent agent job paying at least $70k (the minimum I can accept thanks to my crippling student loan payments). I work at the firm for 1-3 years, then have them pay my way through law school. I know working full time and going to school on nights/weekends is going to be hell, but I'm a hard worker and know how to grind.

My questions are this:
1) How desirable is someone with my background? I'm not sure if having a wide breadth (physics, nuclear engineering, nuclear forensics, and geophysics) is seen as a good thing, or if companies would rather have someone with just one focus.

2) Is it common for firms to pay a patent agents way through law school? I know this would most likely come with contractual stipulations about staying X years with the company, but that's fine.

I really appreciate any advice/insight you may be able to offer!
 
  • #228
berned_you
Gold Member
98
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My questions are this:
1) How desirable is someone with my background? I'm not sure if having a wide breadth (physics, nuclear engineering, nuclear forensics, and geophysics) is seen as a good thing, or if companies would rather have someone with just one focus.
Not common but not undesirable. Check job postings to get an idea of what employers are looking for. That said, you may be limited to certain parts of the country that will have a market/clients needing someone with your background.

2) Is it common for firms to pay a patent agents way through law school? I know this would most likely come with contractual stipulations about staying X years with the company, but that's fine.
Exceptionally rare scenario. Never heard of a firm doing this.

Ever considered working at the patent office as an examiner? They'd pay to train you to obtain your patent bar registration and you'd get out of your crappy job, no experience necessary. You'd gain industry experience and identify companies to search for patent agent jobs.
 
  • #229
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1) I've checked a few job postings but it seems like most employers are looking for electrical, chemical, or mechanical engineers. I haven't let that completely deter me, but it has made me a little less optimistic. The patent bar prep course I'm looking at has a two month plan, so there's still time for something better to open up.

2) Shoot. I was really hoping that would be an option so I wouldn't have to take on any more student loans. I graduated almost $80k in the hole, so I'm really hesitant to go into further debt. My outlook may change in a few years, though.

3) No, that thought had never crossed my mind. The fact that they train you to pass the patent bar is very appealing, considering how expensive prep courses are. Would that type of experience be seen as more desirable than going straight to being a patent agent? Unfortunately, they also don't have any postings for someone with my background right now.
 
  • #230
berned_you
Gold Member
98
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1) I've checked a few job postings but it seems like most employers are looking for electrical, chemical, or mechanical engineers. I haven't let that completely deter me, but it has made me a little less optimistic. The patent bar prep course I'm looking at has a two month plan, so there's still time for something better to open up.

2) Shoot. I was really hoping that would be an option so I wouldn't have to take on any more student loans. I graduated almost $80k in the hole, so I'm really hesitant to go into further debt. My outlook may change in a few years, though.

3) No, that thought had never crossed my mind. The fact that they train you to pass the patent bar is very appealing, considering how expensive prep courses are. Would that type of experience be seen as more desirable than going straight to being a patent agent? Unfortunately, they also don't have any postings for someone with my background right now.

In re: #3, USPTO experience will be significantly valued as compared to candidates without the experience.
 
  • #231
Hi,

Wow, this has been going for some time, thank you for keeping it going as I've only recently discovered this career option! Prior to a couple of months back I thought I was going to attempt to join NASA with a PhD and a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I'm still looking at taking a degree in this as currently I'm taking the IB with Maths Physics and CompSci at Higher Level. However, given my interest is really in general physics, I can change that. I am also looking at travelling to the US to read a degree so from what I'm applying to I believe I have the first year to choose my major which will be engineering and then select my minor from there. Having read this thread you mentioned that Aerospace engineering was "very niche". In your opinion does that mean it would be hard to go anywhere with a degree in it and I should read something that is more popular at the moment such as electrical engineering instead, or is aerospace engineering still ok for jobs? Also, I couldnt find much about computing, do you reckon there is potential as well in a computer engineering or Computer science degree?

Lastly, a more general question: Is it possible to go straight from a degree into being trained as and entering the patent attorney profession, or is it more common to end up working in the field (say, as an aeronautical engineer) beforehand in order to gain more 'first hand' technical experience than a degree can perhaps offer? Most places I looked up seem to want experience which makes me wonder how you actually get the experience in the first place :P

Thanks
Anthony
 
  • #232
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
Hi,

Wow, this has been going for some time, thank you for keeping it going as I've only recently discovered this career option! Prior to a couple of months back I thought I was going to attempt to join NASA with a PhD and a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I'm still looking at taking a degree in this as currently I'm taking the IB with Maths Physics and CompSci at Higher Level. However, given my interest is really in general physics, I can change that. I am also looking at travelling to the US to read a degree so from what I'm applying to I believe I have the first year to choose my major which will be engineering and then select my minor from there. Having read this thread you mentioned that Aerospace engineering was "very niche". In your opinion does that mean it would be hard to go anywhere with a degree in it and I should read something that is more popular at the moment such as electrical engineering instead, or is aerospace engineering still ok for jobs? Also, I couldnt find much about computing, do you reckon there is potential as well in a computer engineering or Computer science degree?

Lastly, a more general question: Is it possible to go straight from a degree into being trained as and entering the patent attorney profession, or is it more common to end up working in the field (say, as an aeronautical engineer) beforehand in order to gain more 'first hand' technical experience than a degree can perhaps offer? Most places I looked up seem to want experience which makes me wonder how you actually get the experience in the first place :P

Thanks
Anthony
You'll see from job postings that there's a greater need for patent attorneys with EE backgrounds as compared to aerospace or comp si/engr.
I went straight through engineering and law school to being a patent attorney. Industry experience is valued but not required.
 
  • #233
1
0
Hello! I've actually been following this blog for about 3 years now. I would like to start off by saying how thankful I am that you are taking your time to respond all these questions.

I am currently living in Canada studying in Electrical Engineering. I always dreamed of becoming a Patent Attorney. I'm already 20 and I'll be 24 by the time I graduate.
Pursuing Law degree will require me to be in school for another 5-6 years and I'll be 30 by the time I graduate.

Hence, my question is the following: how did you support yourself financially by the time you were studying for a law degree? Is it normal for Patent Attorneys-to-be to not have any financial income (other than part time jobs) until they graduate and pass the bar exams?
I am worried that my lack of experience will prevent me from getting a job by the time I'm in my 30s.

I am seriously reconsidering my options. All my friends will all be financially independent by the time I obtain my Electrical Engineering degree.
Thank you so much!
 
  • #234
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
Hello! I've actually been following this blog for about 3 years now. I would like to start off by saying how thankful I am that you are taking your time to respond all these questions.

I am currently living in Canada studying in Electrical Engineering. I always dreamed of becoming a Patent Attorney. I'm already 20 and I'll be 24 by the time I graduate.
Pursuing Law degree will require me to be in school for another 5-6 years and I'll be 30 by the time I graduate.

Hence, my question is the following: how did you support yourself financially by the time you were studying for a law degree? Is it normal for Patent Attorneys-to-be to not have any financial income (other than part time jobs) until they graduate and pass the bar exams?
I am worried that my lack of experience will prevent me from getting a job by the time I'm in my 30s.

I am seriously reconsidering my options. All my friends will all be financially independent by the time I obtain my Electrical Engineering degree.
Thank you so much!

How did I support myself? I took out 100K in loans and worked in the school computer lab a few hours a week. I still have 20 years left to pay it off. My first boss said he paid off his loans (from back in the 80s) with his first paycheck. It's a whole different world right now and that's why a lot of people are choosing not to go to law school.
 
  • #235
Hope you can help. I have an idea I would like to patent but cannot afford to pay an attorney, how can I find out if the "idea" can be patented? on a shoe string budget. Thanks so much for your help on here and the direction and time spent advising us.
 
  • #237
Hi!

I am trying to evaluate the pros and cons of going into patent law vs. not going (according to my current situation). I have a few questions that would be great if you knew the answer too (sorry if these questions may have already been asked).

1. (Kinda nooby question) If I want to go into patent law, I am striving to get a degree in patent law or in intellectual property? Or what is the difference?

2. I am expecting around an 80-90k offer from my co-op when I graduate, would getting an intellectual property law / patent law degree be worth my time in terms of the starting salary in patent law? This is my major concern because the 3 years in law school at 50-60k sets me back (~ -170k avg). However, during those 3 years, I would have already made +240k.

Thus, just setting up the equation to see when the money from both situations equate:
After law degree:
Starting 140k, 6.833 years to earn same money
Starting 130k, 8.2 years to earn same money

Current predicted path: IP law degree at Stanford / UC Berkeley / other top school.

The salary statements from those schools speak high numbers (median 130k from new grad 2013), but you had mentioned in a previous post that it is hard to hit 150k-200k with a 40-45hr work week. Are most new grads typically working higher hour work weeks to hit and go beyond the median 130k? Or is it more because the average quality of the grad at top schools is generally better than other schools?
 
  • #238
146
2
I just want to say that I have been working for the USPTO for a while now and never would have considered patents if not for this thread. If anyone has any questions about the USPTO or working as a patent examiner I'll answer what I can.
 
  • #239
I'm a senior year undergrad majoring in mechanical engineering and have been planning to go into patent law for years. The only thing that's making me reconsider is my low GPA. What are my odds of getting into a decent law school with a 2.3 GPA and 175+ LSAT? I'd write an addendum, but don't have a solid excuse for my low performance. Is it worth applying now, or should I study part-time after I graduate and work as an engineer?
 
  • #240
Hey folks, I'm Greg's sister. One career many scientists do not consider is becoming a patent attorney. I've been practicing as an intellectual property attorney for 6 years now. Does anyone have any questions regarding a career in patent law? I'd be more than happy to provide some insight.
How long did it take you to become a patent lawyer? What do they make a year? Do you have to go to court?
 
  • #241
Hi there, I would like to go into IP law, except I suck at science and math (I like physics however the call was full and I couldn't take it) so I did bio and that was kinda hell. I like Copy Right and Trademark law, but i'm concerned that there is not much demand for that specific area, and that patent lawyers would just do those, instead of having different lawyers work on them
 
  • #242
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
" I like Copy Right and Trademark law, but i'm concerned that there is not much demand for that specific area, and that patent lawyers would just do those, instead of having different lawyers work on them"

This is definitely not the situation. If you want to do TM or (c), go for it.
 
  • #243
Hi there, I read many post in this thread and the information you have provided so far is very informative and i would like to thank you for taking your time and providing all these valuable information.

Here is my Question:

I'm a third year law student and I'm interested in IP Law and also I'm interested in studying Chemistry. What education would you recommend for me to become a patent attorney?
(Do you recommend studying a BS in Chem or can i go straight for an LLM in science related IP law? or is there any other option?)

Thank You
 
  • #244
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
Hi there, I read many post in this thread and the information you have provided so far is very informative and i would like to thank you for taking your time and providing all these valuable information.

Here is my Question:

I'm a third year law student and I'm interested in IP Law and also I'm interested in studying Chemistry. What education would you recommend for me to become a patent attorney?
(Do you recommend studying a BS in Chem or can i go straight for an LLM in science related IP law? or is there any other option?)

Thank You
Chem essentially requires and advanced degree (MS or phd). Law school is a JD and don't bother with a LLM.
 
  • #245
2
0
Thank you so much for taking your time to answer all of these questions and inquiries on patent law.

I am a high school student who is looking into colleges, and have been doing research into possible majors and post-graduation jobs to give me more insight into which schools would best fit my particular interests. I am having trouble deciding whether to pursue biology, which is my favorite subject and one I am extremely interested in, and law- which I also find intriguing and seems to offer more job opportunities post-graduation. I stumbled upon patent law when researching the different paths one can take as a lawyer, and it seems like the perfect combination of my interests.

I do not have a problem with getting an advanced degree in biology or microbiology, I am just uncertain as to what jobs will be available to me, and whether the salaries would make up for the large tuition expenses. I also am not particularly interested in lab work, so a technician in a research facility does not sound like my dream occupation. From what I have read on this forum and other sites, patent law is much better suited to my talents and interests.

My biggest fear regarding pursuing this particular career is the amount of debt I will accumulate during schooling, and if it will make fiscal sense for me to dedicate so much time into earning a degree that will make it difficult to pay back student loans. I am a good student (high GPA, multiple AP classes, high SAT scores, seated first in my senior class) and have been recently looking into Columbia University, which, as an Ivy League, is very expensive. My parents would not be able to pay the tuition, so I will have to take out loans and rely on financial aid to pay for my schooling.

What I really want to know is: what is the lowest advanced degree necessary to still have a chance of getting a good job as a patent attorney (do I need a PhD or will a masters suffice), and should I look into a different career if I want to make a relatively high salary without struggling financially after so many years of college? I want to pursue a career that interests me, and biology patent law is my first choice so far, but salary is also a big deal to me when making decisions that dictate my future. Would attending a prestigious yet expensive university make sense because it would make me look more attractive to potential employers, or should I look into going to a less expensive state school? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, your insight will be invaluable to me in my search to find the college and career path that is right for me.
 
  • #246
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
Thank you so much for taking your time to answer all of these questions and inquiries on patent law.

I am a high school student who is looking into colleges, and have been doing research into possible majors and post-graduation jobs to give me more insight into which schools would best fit my particular interests. I am having trouble deciding whether to pursue biology, which is my favorite subject and one I am extremely interested in, and law- which I also find intriguing and seems to offer more job opportunities post-graduation. I stumbled upon patent law when researching the different paths one can take as a lawyer, and it seems like the perfect combination of my interests.

I do not have a problem with getting an advanced degree in biology or microbiology, I am just uncertain as to what jobs will be available to me, and whether the salaries would make up for the large tuition expenses. I also am not particularly interested in lab work, so a technician in a research facility does not sound like my dream occupation. From what I have read on this forum and other sites, patent law is much better suited to my talents and interests.

My biggest fear regarding pursuing this particular career is the amount of debt I will accumulate during schooling, and if it will make fiscal sense for me to dedicate so much time into earning a degree that will make it difficult to pay back student loans. I am a good student (high GPA, multiple AP classes, high SAT scores, seated first in my senior class) and have been recently looking into Columbia University, which, as an Ivy League, is very expensive. My parents would not be able to pay the tuition, so I will have to take out loans and rely on financial aid to pay for my schooling.

What I really want to know is: what is the lowest advanced degree necessary to still have a chance of getting a good job as a patent attorney (do I need a PhD or will a masters suffice), and should I look into a different career if I want to make a relatively high salary without struggling financially after so many years of college? I want to pursue a career that interests me, and biology patent law is my first choice so far, but salary is also a big deal to me when making decisions that dictate my future. Would attending a prestigious yet expensive university make sense because it would make me look more attractive to potential employers, or should I look into going to a less expensive state school? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, your insight will be invaluable to me in my search to find the college and career path that is right for me.

The debt is to be taken seriously. That said, if it's what you want to do, it can be worth it. You just don't want to go in blindly, not knowing the costs and how that'll affect your life once you graduate. There is the potential to make big bucks (and also even a nice salary) in patent law, it's just not guaranteed. You need to work hard (both in school and also to find a job afterwards with networking, informal interviews, smart personalized cover letters, etc.) and have a background for which there is demand for patent attorneys.

If you go into biology, you will at least need a MS (it's just the way bio goes as you can read more about in prior posts in this thread). Have you considered biomedical engineering for your minor? A BS in BME is probably sufficient to land your first job and will give you some flexibility to work on the bio side and the mechanical engineering side, depending on where opportunities lie. Employers tend to like "engineers," even if a physicist, chemist and biologist took most of the same classes. Don't ask me why.

Also, forgive me for assuming but if you are a woman, it may be easier to obtain scholarships if you are in an engineering program because there is a disproportionate number of women in the field.

Hope that helps!
 
  • #247
Hi, I have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and I am interested in becoming a patent agent. Can you recommend the best online course or a book to help me prepare for the Patent bar exam?
 
  • #248
berned_you
Gold Member
98
19
Hi, I have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and I am interested in becoming a patent agent. Can you recommend the best online course or a book to help me prepare for the Patent bar exam?
Sorry, I can't help you there as I took the patent bar a decade ago. All I know is is the extensive undergrad-esque programs are unnecessarily time intensive and expensive.
 
  • #249
2
0
The debt is to be taken seriously. That said, if it's what you want to do, it can be worth it. You just don't want to go in blindly, not knowing the costs and how that'll affect your life once you graduate. There is the potential to make big bucks (and also even a nice salary) in patent law, it's just not guaranteed. You need to work hard (both in school and also to find a job afterwards with networking, informal interviews, smart personalized cover letters, etc.) and have a background for which there is demand for patent attorneys.

If you go into biology, you will at least need a MS (it's just the way bio goes as you can read more about in prior posts in this thread). Have you considered biomedical engineering for your minor? A BS in BME is probably sufficient to land your first job and will give you some flexibility to work on the bio side and the mechanical engineering side, depending on where opportunities lie. Employers tend to like "engineers," even if a physicist, chemist and biologist took most of the same classes. Don't ask me why.

Also, forgive me for assuming but if you are a woman, it may be easier to obtain scholarships if you are in an engineering program because there is a disproportionate number of women in the field.

Hope that helps!
Thank you for your insight and advice. I will definitely look into BME, especially if it increases my chances of finding a job out of college. I am a woman, so it is encouraging to know that there will be scholarships available to me if I choose this career path. This forum really helped me a lot!
 
  • #250
1
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Hello. I'm currently practicing as an attorney with a firm and I do not have a science background. I am considering taking classes in the listed categories to become eligible to sit for the patent bar, for example the 24 hours in physics. What is your opinion on this route, and do you know others who also have taken this path? This is strictly for lateraling or opening new doors. Thank you for your time.
 

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